Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pastry Orientation

Wednesday was my first day of actual class at CALI. We didn't do much in the way of learning, it was more like an orientation day, even though I had gone to the technical orientation last week. My teacher is really awesome so far. She is young, loud, boisterous, funny, and extremely talented. I think she is exactly the kind of person I want to learn from; fun, tough, no nonsense, wants you to succeed and loves what she does. I can't really take my eyes of her in class, she just absolutely holds my attention, which I'm sure as any college student would know, that is not an easy task. Chef Katie is an 100% Italian single mother of a 2 year old boy and suffers from type 2 diabetes, celiac disease (intolerance to wheat), and extreme lactose intolerance. If anyone was going to be sensitive to what I want to do, bake for people like my cousin Jaclyn who have deathly allergies, she was going to be the person.

Our class hours are 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Monday through Friday from now until mid-May. That's 4 months of classes then a 2 month internship at a bakery, restaurant, catering hall, etc., for a total of 6 months. Each month is its own section. First is pastry and baking basics, then cakes, then breads, and then advanced techniques including chocolate tempering, spinning sugar, and plated desserts. The syllabus sounds amazing and delicious. I can't wait to learn how to make my own rainbow cookies, custards, mousses, eclairs, wedding cakes, baguettes, coissants, bagels, challa bread, danish, truffles, crepes, and SO much more. The first week is spent in the classroom learning about basic products, equipment, bakers math and measurements, knife skills, and kitchen sanitation. From then on we spend every day in the kitchen except for one classroom day at the beginning of each section going over the basics and the syllabus for that section.

Our first class we introduced ourselves for like 3 hours. There are about 20 people in the class, that's the largest these classes ever get, because the kitchen is already crowded. Most of the students were around my age, just out of high school or college and looking for a change or a career, some were much older looking for a new career after they were laid off from their previous job, or moms or grandmothers just looking to pursue their love of baking professionally. There are about 5 men and 15 women, all from very diverse backgrounds. Chef Katie is a huge talker, so going through just a few simple questions of; name, hometown, reason for choosing CALI, career goals, favorite food, least favorite food, allergies, "issues" with food (like I don't touch mayonaise, or I can't smell avacadoes without throwing up, etc.), and where the last place you ate out was, turned into an entire day of tangents from Chef Katie about everything from, "omg my son won't eat ice cream either!" to, "you went to Sacret Heart too?". All in all it was a really fun day. We went through our syllabus and then we got our books.

Everything at CALI is included in the tuition so that day I got a CALI chef's bag, professional baking textbook, notebook, and calculator. Before we go into the kitchen we are all equipped with chef pants, shirt, hat, shoes, and a huge yellow toolbox with everything you could ever need... knives, thermometers, pastry bags, you name it. I cannot wait to get my hands on that. She said she hands them out at the end of math day, as a reward for trying to learn conversions all day.

We are assigned a bit of reading from the textbook every class, and given some hand outs. I can't tell you how much fun it is to read about the history of wheat and basic baking appliances after you spent five months gouging your eyes out reading about contracts and civil procedure, and torts every day. What a change a month has made!

Chef Katie was trained at the French Culinary Institute and has been working in the baking industry for over 18 years. She has been teaching this particular course since it began in 2005 or something, so I have no doubt about her abilities. The class is kind of structured like this. Let's say we're making cookies one day, chocolate chip cookies. First we go over the recipe, then she demonstrates how to make the cookies, step by step, and we take notes, then we make them ourselves with a partner. This goes on and on, as we do more complicated recipes, then there is a written test and an individual practical at the end of every section. We each pick a recipe out of a hat and make it ourselves, then Chef Katie eats it and tells us what we did right or wrong and we get graded. This is the same for all sections, some of which have special projects, including menu writing, plate decoration, and wedding cake decoration. After all four sections we have a day of final practicals where we all pick a few different recipes out of a hat and make them all without notes, textbook, or instructions. We are only given an ingredients list and the ingredient ratios. All in all it sounds pretty badass to me, and I'm excited for class tomorrow.

This weekend I will be traveling to the MD to see the fiance for Valentine's Day. We're not doing anything in particular since we are trying to save as much money as possible for the condo down payment. I think we're probably just going out for sushi Saturday night for a "date", and having dinner with his parents and grandparents on Sunday afternoon. I'm bringing him a delicious cake that I'm going to be decorating at our Wilton class tomorrow night. I think he's going to love it. The way to any man's heart is through his stomach, and the way to Chris' heart is definitely through peanut butter.

The most exciting part about this weekend is that I'm going to see a few friends from college as well. My good friend Morgan was also going to do Baltimore this weekend to see her sister, so I'm going to stay at her place Friday night and then drive her down to Maryland with me. I've missed her so much since graduation and I'm really glad that I finally get to spend some time with her. Since I have Monday off I'm going to be taking her back to Philadelphia and then we're going to meet up with Jim for dinner. I love them both so much, and everyone from college/a cappella. I just wish we all got the chance to see each other more but traveling is just so damn expensive and everyone is so busy. Even though I haven't really started at CALI yet, I'm sure I'm going to be less busy than I was at law school, and that makes me insanely happy.

I hope it doesn't snow any more while I'm gone this weekend. "Snowpocalypse" has left Maryland with about 5 feet of snow over the past week or so. Chris has been having trouble getting to work, and once he does get there, everyone else has taken sick days. We're both hating on Patrick this week who gets off from work at the NSA for basically anything. Chris is really frustrated at work lately because he never has anything to do. It's really hard to prove that you are awesome and deserve a promotion/raise when your boss is always away and doesn't leave you enough stuff to do. Apparently Chris also kind of fucked up on his taxes this year and we're not getting any money back like we thought we were going to. This may cause a serious problem. If we end up not having enough for a down payment, we won't be getting a condo this year and will have to get an apartment until we can pay off more bills. Being an adult blows.

Until next time, Julibean <3

Monday, February 8, 2010

Holy Crap Frosting to the Max!

Today my sister and I decided to make all of the cakes and frosting needed for all of our future Wilton decorating classes at once. We ran to Michael's, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and the Supermarket to get all the necessary supplies, which included 16 pounds of powdered sugar and 4 huge canisters of shortening. We made 3 - two or three layer cakes each and threw them in the freezer. Our teacher explained to us the proper way of preserving cakes and frosting in the freezer to be defrosted and decorated at a later date. Apparently freezing things keeps everything wet and creates nice moist cakes, but refrigerating dries everything out so it's not really useful for stuff like this or bread, etc. Who knew? We used boxed cake mixes because it really doesn't matter what the cake is like, this is a decorating class, not a baking class. Then we had to make 16 batches of butter cream frosting.

We needed to make stiff consistency frosting for when we do our decorating. When I say stiff, I mean stiff. We nearly broke our mom's professional stand mixer. It got seriously overheated and made this awful noise and we had to turn it off and figure out another way to mix it all up. Long story short... we were in the kitchen for about 7-8 hours today while watching the Super Bowl here and there as things were baking. I think if I'm actually doing this for a living I'm going to need one of those squishy floor mats so my feet don't feel like they're about to fall off every evening when I finish working.

My dad gave me one of the old digital cameras we have lying around the house and I plan on taking pictures of the things I bake and decorate and posting them up here. Once I have something worth taking a picture of, I will figure out how you actually get photos up on here. My CALI classes start in two days and I'm so excited. My syllabus sounds amazing (and delicious) and I can't wait to get started.

Tomorrow I will be de-Christmasing the house some more. Our house has a serious clutter/mess problem. My mother is a bit of a hoarder and we have trouble getting things organized or throwing anything away. The house is always covered in papers, books, magazines, laundry, shopping, coats, etc. We consider it an achievement if our Christmas tree is down by Super Bowl Sunday, I think the longest we ever made it was Valentine's Day, possibly even St. Patrick's Day, I really can't recall. So Elise and I took it upon ourselves to de-Christmas the house this weekend. There's only so long into February that you can look at a nativity scene, menorah, and ornaments without wanting to kill yourself. Also, the sheer amount of Christmas paraphernalia we have in the house is astonishing. Crates and crates, and tupperwares and boxes galore. I would estimate that half of the attic/basement is full of decorations. Not only that, but my mother has an entire set of Christmas china, glassware, serving dishes, etc. The set has a billion pieces and takes up a hell of a lot of room, and there is quite a production of switching the china in the cabinet from regular china to Christmas china so it can be on display during the season. I shit you not.

This Christmas things got severely out of hand. I don't know if I've seen in this bad in a really long time. Mom has been trying to clean out as much of her classroom as possible since the school she teaches will be closing this year. This means that there is even more junk that we never even knew existed infiltrating our current war zone of a living space. As Elise and I went through all of the boxes, making sure to label everything and match the labels up with the corresponding boxes as to make the process as easy as possible, I came upon a box that said "outdoor icicle lights and garland". Inside I found: unopened packages of Thanksgiving plates and napkins, fourth of July place mats, red white and blue lights, two ceramic pumpkin dishes that were being stored inside a Christmas bag, an Easter faberge egg, and a Snoopy figurine with bunny ears and an Easter basket. There has been an explosion of holidays and it has to stop.

Mom has been dying to get a puppy for about two years now. I still maintain that we should only get a puppy if the house is entirely cleaned so that there is nothing on the floor in any room that a dog might eat or destroy. This has probably not happened in my home since my parents moved into it in 1983. If you ever wonder why my siblings and I are so anal about organizing or frequently spout sonnets about how clean our future houses are going to be, you need only take a look at our family home around the holidays. It is a nightmare of epic proportions. My brother barely bothers to come home for Christmas any more because he mentally cannot handle the mess. So here's to finishing the de-Christmasing process tomorrow... for once and for all.

Julibean <3

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